Speakers

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

Jeremy Gutsche

Speaker | Author | Founder of TrendHunter.com

Jeremy Gutsche is an innovation expert, award-winning author, one of the most requested keynote speakers on the planet, and the founder of TrendHunter.com, the world’s #1 most popular trend website, attracting over 2 BILLION views from 100,000,000 total visitors. Prior to Trend Hunter, Jeremy grew a $1 billion portfolio for a bank and today, over 300 brands, billionaires and CEOs rely on his unique expertise to FIND BETTER IDEAS FASTER. He has been described as “a new breed of trend spotter” by The Guardian, “an eagle eye” by Global TV, an “Oracle” by the Globe and Mail, an “intellectual can of Red Bull” by Association Week and “on the forefront of cool” by MTV.

Gerry O’Brion

Speaker & Author | What Big Brands Know

After years as an executive with billion dollar restaurant brands, Gerry  now uses big company strategies to grow restaurants of all sizes, regardless of their budget. Gerry is the creator of The Restaurant Formula program, a step-by-step process to attract your ideal guests and turn them into vocal advocates of your restaurant. Gerry began his career in marketing at Procter & Gamble and then was an executive for Coors Light, Quiznos, and Red Robin.

John Offerdahl

Owner & Founder | Offerdahl’s Cafe Grill | Former All-Pro Miami Dolphins Linebacker

Former All-Pro Miami Dolphins linebacker and co-founder of Einsteins Brothers’ Bagels, John Offerdahl currently operates 7 quick-casual Grills—Offerdahl’s Café Grill, that feature “fresh-baked, JUST-GRILLED, all-day, great food!” and was named a “Hot Concept” by Nations Restaurant News. Determined to use his past football and present food platforms to impact his community, John launched the annual Gridiron Grill-Off Food & Wine Festival where 25 Miami Dolphin legends team-up with South Florida’s top chefs to vie for fans vote as they eat and drink. All proceeds go to Offerdahl’s Hand-Off Foundation and its mission to “Feed the Needs of Kids in Crisis” who are fatherless and homeless.

Tom Ryan

Co-Founder & Chief Concept Officer | Smashburger

Tom joined Pizza Hut in the late 80s and McDonalds in the late 90s, where he held menu development, CMO, and worldwide chief concept officer titles. Over his seven years at McDonalds, Tom brought McFlurries, The Dollar Menu, and McGriddles to the marketplace. In 2006, Tom and Rick Schaden set out to build new, disruptive concepts focused on the next generation of consumers. In 2007, Smashburger was born and has since become an industry icon for quality, growth, and business acumen. Smashburger has been named twice by Forbes as “Americas Most Promising Company,” has won countless local awards for best burgers, and earned Tom a spot on Gourmet Magazine’s “25 Top Food Entrepreneurs of the Last 25 Years” list.

Pete Turner

Founder & Owner | Illegal Pete’s

Burrito aficionado, record label owner and philanthropist Pete Turner is owner of Colorado’s beloved and countercultural “Mission-style Mexican” restaurants: Illegal Pete’s. Starting in Boulder in 1995, each of seven locations was founded to become one with the community and foster human connection.

ADDITIONAL PRESENTERS

Mindy Armstrong

Director Food Insights & Innovation | Food IQ

Mindy has spent the last 10 years facilitating conversation for some of the nation’s top food and beverage brands. She is passionate about innovation, partnering with and leading manufacturers, restaurant chains and retailers to the next big idea through an understanding and application of consumer insights and market trends

Casey Askar

Chairman and President | Askar Brands

Casey is the chairman and president of Askar Brands and leads the company’s focus on growth through his experience in franchising, commercial real estate, and food.  Askar’s acquisition portfolio includes Papa Romano’s Pizza, CJ’s Brewing Company, Mr. Pita, Stucchi’s Ice Cream, Papa’s Pizza To-Go, Breadeaux Pizza and Blackjack Pizza, which have more than 150 combined locations throughout 17 states and nearly every major region of the U.S. His real estate portfolio includes office complexes and in-line retail centers in excess of 1.5 million square feet. Casey also has significant experience in petroleum distribution and fitness concepts.

Kent Barkouras

EVP, Enterprise Services | Primary Color Systems

Kent is a 30-year veteran in the restaurant industry and pioneered the first web-to-print marketing portal that supported the needs of market leaders in Fast Casual, QSR, Casual and Family dining. Kent believes that partnering with innovative suppliers to maximize the most out of every opportunity while the continuing tightening the supply chain is critical to the collective success of both franchisor and franchisee. Kent currently serves as EVP of enterprise services at Primary Color Systems, a leading supplier of marketing execution services to the restaurant industry.

Louis Basile

Founder & President | Wildflower Bread Company

Louis is the founder & president of Wildflower Bread Company based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Wildflower Bread Company is a fast casual restaurant and fresh dough manufacturer that operates 14 locations in Arizona. Louis is considered one of the most passionate leaders in the fast causal restaurant segment. He was on the founding committee of the Fast Casual Executive Summit and in 2008, was elected to lead the Fast Casual Executive Alliance as president. Louis is an active board member on both the National and Arizona Restaurant Association Boards. Louis worked in the restaurant industry since childhood at his family’s restaurant in New Jersey. His work experience includes The Chart House Corporation and Au Bon Pain prior to founding Wildflower.

Dave Brewer

COO, Cooking Solutions | Middleby Corporation

Dave is chief operating officer of the Middleby Corporation Commercial Foodservice Group. While leading sales efforts with Middleby’s top chain customers, Dave also plays a key role in the development of some of the most innovative commercial kitchen innovations on the market today. Dave has more than 25 years of senior executive experience in food service, including expertise in engineering, industry trends, operations, sales and technology execution. Prior to joining Middleby in 2007, he was with Yum! Brands and Chiquita Corp. He has a deep knowledge of both domestic and international business with experience in China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Central and South America.

Chris Bright

President | zpizza International

Chris co-founded  zpizza International in 1999 when it was a four unit local chain. For more than a decade Chris has lead zpizza in, what many would consider, the most competitive segment in the restaurant industry.  During Chris’s tenure zpizza has opened more than 100 locations. Most recently Chris crafted the vision and strategy for its new prototype, zpizza tap room. Chris co-founded Fransmart, LLC, in 1999 for the purpose of growing local franchisors into national brands. Fransmart has performed the marketing, sales and screening function to recruit new franchisees for 40+ brands. During Chris’s tenure with Fransmart, the company opened more than 600 units and sold more than 1,000 multi unit franchise deals.

Michelle Bushey

Design Director | Harrison Architecture and Design

Michelle is an expert in her field with over 20 years experience focused on restaurant design – particularly prototype development and branding for roll out. Her clients include Mooyah, Bennigan’s, Twin Peaks, Cowboy Chicken, Rockfish, Baker Brother’s, Harrah’s, On the Border, Cheddar’s Cafe, Boston’s Pizza and Domino’s Pizza among others.

Ben Butler

Founder | Rock Creek MT LLC

Ben has extensive experience growing brands in Asia, Latin and North America. His advisory clients include PE firms (CVC Capital Partners, ACTIS) and brands (Dave & Busters, Bloomin Brands). Ben is an active angel investor in restaurants. He serves as a Board Director for AgroAmerica; Central America’s largest sustainable banana and palm producer, and as Oaktree Capital’s Board representative for Quiznos. Prior to his Advisory practice, Ben enjoyed 18 years with YUM! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell) as President Long John Silver’s and A&W restaurants. GM YUM! Latin America, and VP Business Development/CFO for YUM! Asia.

Chef Jimmy Carey

Executive Chef and Owner | Jimmy’z Kitchen

Chef Jimmy has been bringing his delicious Nuevo Latino flavors to Miami for the past twenty years. His career has included studying Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University and training under Chef Robert Holley and Eric Ripert at La Brasserie Le Coze, owned by the award-winning team from La Bernardin. Eight years ago he opened Jimmy’z Kitchen in South Beach – pioneering the concept of the Chef-inspired fast casual in South Florida. In 2010 he opened his second location in the Wynwood Arts District with an extensive selection of craft beers and wines. The past two years has seen the concept grow with two more restaurants.

Brad Christian

Managing Director | Market Force

Brad has served as managing director at Market Force Information for the last nine years.  He is responsible for consulting and program design for numerous restaurant organizations in North America.  With a focus on driving location performance improvement, he provides guidance on customer experience measurement to help client organizations drive increases in guest satisfaction, loyalty and financial performance.  Brad is based out of Norcross, Georgia.

Scott Davis

Creative Director and Managing Partner | Culinary Concepts Group

Scott joined the Culinary Concepts Group as the creative director and managing partner earlier this year after a 28-year career with Panera Bread as their EVP and chief concept officer. During his tenure, Scott led the Culinary and Concept Design teams that created the “Panera Bread” concept, as well as menu development that drove differentiation through innovations including the first antibiotic free, “clean” chicken breast used at scale in 2003. As a champion for “clean eating” Scott created the vision for Panera’s “food policy” and subsequently the move to remove artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and additives from their menu.

Nick DeCarlo

Director, Restaurant Solutions | The Wendy’s Company

As director of restaurant solutions, Nick leads the team critical to the success of all restaurant technology initiatives. Within his current scope of responsibilities are critical business impacting technologies, including POS, DMB, mobile architecture, Wi-Fi, customer self-order devices, hand held/line busting device, dual lane drive thru technology, etc. Nick has held multiple roles in the 12 years with the organization, including application development, project management, leading projects related to PCI, ERP, hyperion, operational repotting, back office and POS. His team’s goal is to ensure that all solutions developed and deployed meet the needs of the end user, are highly scalable, supportable, and “just work” at the end of the day.

Rob Depp

VP, Restaurant Design | FRCH Design Worldwide

Rob brings over twenty years of diverse branding and marketing experience to FRCH Design Worldwide. With a background in business and design, he has an intuitive understanding of both the rational and the creative side of the marketing world. His past experience on both the client and agency side allows Rob to lead teams with insight into real world client challenges and effective integration of FRCH services. Rob consults on best-in-class service levels, account management and planning for clients including Samsung, Johnson & Johnson, Walt Disney, Build-A-Bear, Tiffany & Co., American Girl, Fiesta Restaurant Group, Spoleto, Steak ‘n Shake, A&W Canada, Giraffas, and Famous Dave’s BBQ.

Roland Dickey Jr.

CEO | Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Roland is chief executive officer of Dallas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit He is the grandson of company founder Travis Dickey, Sr. Since becoming president and CEO of the third generation family run company in 2006, Roland has expanded the restaurant’s reach from 20 to over 500 stores nationwide. As CEO, Roland has elevated his family’s company to new heights by enthusiastically leading its evolution from a local barbecue joint to the fast-casual chain it is today. Through explosive growth in franchising, Dickey’s Barbecue now reaches guests across the country and is officially the nation’s largest barbecue chain.

Jenny Doan

Director of Marketing | Nestlé Professional Beverages

Jenny is a marketing professional with over 20 years of beverage experience in both foodservice and CPG industries. She has managed large beverage portfolios across North America with multiple brands, diverse offerings, and within both commercial and non-commercial channels. Prior to joining Nestle Professional Beverages, Jenny held senior level marketing positions in the apparel industry and with a market research firm.

Scott Drummond

Co-Founder | eatsa

eatsa co-founder, Scott Drummond, is a proven brand builder who has guided the development of some of the world’s most iconic and respected brands in the hospitality, sports and entertainment industries. He is a trusted partner for business leaders looking for guidance on new products and disruptive innovation. With eatsa, Scott has found the “secret sauce” for a new type of fast food that delivers unprecedented technology-driven convenience, healthier ingredients, blazing fast order times and incredible value. As the former CEO and founder of Forty-Forty Agency, Scott’s clients included Auberge and Disney resorts, Piatti, Oakville Grocery, Del Monte, Patagonia, Washington Nationals, MTV Networks, NFL Players, and Gap.

Craig Dunaway

President | Penn Station

Craig has been President of Penn Station since August 16, 1999 and joined the organization when they had just 64 restaurants. Today, Penn Station has more than 300 restaurants in 15 states. Their category leading return on investment and penchant for providing their franchisees the detailed tools to succeed and thrive has resulted in only two failures in 30 years of franchising operations. Prior to joining Penn Station, Craig was a partner at the regional accounting firm of McCauley, Nicolas & Company, LLC in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Craig formerly had ownership interest in a Papa John’s franchise in addition to Coastal Cheesesteaks, LLC and Louisville Cheesesteaks, LLC, and Penn Station franchisees.

Matt Eisenacher

Director of MarketingPiada Italian Street Food

Matt is the Director of Marketing for Piada Italian Street Food – a fast growing Fine Fast Casual brand based in Columbus, Ohio with units across Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Texas and soon-to-be Minnesota.  His team is responsible for leading branding efforts and demand generation as the concept enters new communities across the country.  Matt brings with him 12 years of experience across the food & nutrition industry – ranging from consumer packaged goods to restaurants.

John Featherston

Senior Director, New Ventures | Chick-fil-A

John currently invests his work in three primary areas of Chick-fil-A: establishing the business in urban markets, developing a model for international growth, and shaping new investments beyond the core restaurants. John joined Chick-fil-A in 1993 after ten years in the banking industry with the predecessor institutions of Bank of America and Wells Fargo. John’s professional associations include ULI (Urban Land Institute), ICSC, and IFA (Int’L Franchise Association). Community involvement includes Care for Aids, Young Life, and MTLTW (Music to Light the World).

Dale Feyereisen

Regional Sales Manager | Philips Signage Solutions

Dale has over ten years of experience in sales engineering and over 20 years in technology sales experience within the technology industry. The last seven years have been specifically in the digital signage industry with Samsung and Philips. Dale has broad technical knowledge in digital signage software, hardware and services with a focused customer base that includes dealers, integrators, distributors and end users. Digital signage systems can be complex, which is why he employ a methodology in adapting to the constant change of the digital signage industry while applying that knowledge in understanding the customers’ needs and providing the correct solution to the customer.

Abby Feuer

VP, Marketing | DonorsChoose.org

Abby is the VP of marketing at DonorsChoose.org, an organization that makes it easy to help public school classrooms in need. Abby heads up initiatives to empower, educate and connect teachers as well as marketing initiatives across channels. Prior to joining the DonorsChoose.org team in this role, Abby earned her BA at Harvard and her MBA at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. She also spent time at Etsy working on engagement, retention and insight for Etsy’s over 1M sellers.

Megan Flynn

EVP, Strategy & Business Development | Excentus

Megan joined the Excentus team in early 2014, bringing with her more than 13 years of experience developing loyalty and marketing solutions that facilitate incremental, value-added growth for local, regional and national merchants as well as consumers, shareholders and investors. Her previous experience aligns well with Excentus’ strategy to expand the Fuel Rewards coalition program by providing relevant and desirable offer content to its members as well as demonstrating incremental revenue opportunities to current and future coalition merchants. Prior to joining Excentus, Megan was chief partner development officer at Rewards Network, the organization that powers the Fuel Rewards dining program.

Elizabeth Friend

Senior Analyst | Euromonitor International

Elizabeth covers the global consumer foodservice industry for Euromonitor International, a role she has filled since 2011. As an industry analyst, Elizabeth publishes articles, reports and other analysis detailing trends and developments in all categories of global foodservice. She also assists in the yearly generation of Euromonitor’s market research data, drawing data and analysis from in-country researchers in 54 global markets. The scope of this research spans market sizes, brand and company shares, regulatory changes, trends and new product developments in the restaurant industry. Previously, Elizabeth worked in a variety of research and analytics roles in the finance industry.

Anand Gala

Founder & CEO | Gala Holdings International

Anand is the founder, president and CEO of Gala Holdings International, a diversified holding company with operations in consulting, restaurant development and management, and real estate development and investment. He has spent the past 30 years in various executive capacities within the Restaurant Industry. The Restaurant Division focuses on the development and management of nationally recognized chain restaurants, both franchised and proprietary, throughout the western United States. Current portfolio brands under ownership and operation include Fresh Griller and Famous Dave’s BBQ locations. Prior brands have included: Del Taco, Applebee’s, Jack in the Box and Seattle’s Best Coffee.

Randy Gier

CEO | Rave Restaurant Group

Randy was appointed chief eating officer of Rave Restaurant Group Inc. in November 2012. If you’re jealous of his title, you aren’t the only one. As CEO, Randy gets to sample the goods each day. Before he became a Raver, he honed his food chops by founding Savvy Fare Restaurant Group, where he created and expanded new restaurant concepts. He also spent 25 years in executive positions with Pizza Hut, KFC and Yum! International. And finally, he has an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago, a BBA in Finance from the University of Missouri Kansas City, and a black belt in food-jitsu…the art of making restaurants successful.

Sam Gorenstein

Co-Founder | My Ceviche

Sam began his career in New York in 2004 when he accepted an opportunity to work with one of the culinary world’s brightest stars, Chef Tourondel, at Union Pacific. In January 2005, Tourondel asked Sam to open BLT Fish, where he eventually became the executive chef at BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel on South Beach. During this time, he received a three-and-a-half-star review from The Miami Herald, two James Beard nominations for “Rising Star Chef”, and was recognized as a top chef in the 2011 publication of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list. Sam is currently focusing all of his attention on My Ceviche, where he has channeled his technique and expertise with haute cuisine.

Jim Greco

Chief Operating Officer | Newk’s Eatery

With a background in operations reengineering, strategic planning and brand positioning, Jim is an industry consultant and chief operating officer of Newk’s Eatery, a fast casual chain rapidly growing throughout the southern U.S. Greco has served as president and CEO of Sbarro and CEO of Bruegger’s Enterprises. Prior to this, he served in senior roles in the consumer products industry. In each of his leadership roles, Greco is credited for achieving exceptional results. Nation’s Restaurant News named him Operator of the Year in 2009. He is the author of several articles and a book chapter on management and leadership.

Michael Hagan

Chief Operating Officer | LevelUp

As COO at LevelUp, Michael is an expert in mobile payments. He is responsible for growing LevelUp’s mobile payment network across the globe. The convergence of advertising, payments, mobile and analytics has opened up opportunities to help restaurants and food retailers increase revenues and decrease costs. Michael frequently shares his insight from the front lines with examples from merchants who are embracing these changes and capitalizing. A sought after speaker in the foodservice industry, Michael has also guest lectured at Wharton, Drexel, Boston College, Harvard and MIT on mobile payments, entrepreneurship and the future of advertising. Michael is a serial entrepreneur hailing from Boston.

Colleen Hart

Product Manager, Messaging | Paytronix Systems

Colleen is the messaging product manager for Paytronix Systems – a tech firm that supplies more than 280 restaurant and retail brands with an innovative customer engagement platform and data analytics. Specializing in the reward program and CRM spaces, Colleen is a multi-channel messaging expert who has worked with brands such as California Pizza Kitchen and Papa Gino’s, Inc. Colleen’s features have facilitated deployment of millions of emails and mobile notifications. Her latest project, the Campaign Center, delivers immediate, highly-visual results on customer visit, spend, and redemption behavior and, ultimately, the lift driven by each campaign.

Glen Helton

CEO | Kudu Corporation

Glen is the CEO of Kudu Corporation, based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Kudu is Saudi’s leading restaurant company, with 292 locations in the Middle East and a portfolio that consists of QSR, fast casual and casual dining restaurants. Glen is also co-owner of VooDooBBQ & Grill, a 12-year, fast casual concept based in New Orleans. Prior to VooDooBBQ, Glen served on Burger King’s leadership team as SVP of global operations, and played an instrumental part in their recent, widely publicized turn-around. Prior to Burger King, Glen served as the president and COO for Strategic Restaurants Acquisitions Corp. (SRAC), at the time, the second largest franchise group.

Dr. Phil Hendrix

Founder and Managing Director | immr

Dr. Phil Hendrix is the founder and managing director of immr, where he serves as an industry analyst and consultant to leading companies and startups. As an advisor Phil helps clients integrate mobile, digital and other technologies into their strategies. Focusing on mobile, location, and data/analytics, he has worked with clients in CPG, retail, consumer electronics, insurance and other verticals.  Author of more than 20 analyst reports, Phil recently published an in-depth, two-part report examining market opportunities for mobile in QSRs and Fast Casual. Before founding immr in 2002, Phil was a partner with leading consulting firms and a marketing professor at Emory University and the U. of Michigan.

Stacey Kane

VP, Marketing | East Coast Wings

Stacey has more than 20 years of experience working with multi-unit restaurant chains. She joined East Coast Wings & Grill, a 35 unit brand in early 2015 as the VP of marketing. In 2007, Stacey started at California Tortilla, where she was known for her incredible creativity  as the VP of marketing. Stacey also spent 11 years as a top-level media buyer for Subway® restaurants, and has served on several boards, including the National Restaurant Association’s Marketing Executives Group Board. In 2012 and 2013, Stacey was named a Top 20 Movers and Shakers by Fast Casual Magazine.

Valerie Killifer

President | P-O-P Content & Communications

Valerie is a professional journalist whose work has been published in national, industry-leading magazines and newspapers, websites and blogs. She has been featured in publications such as USA Today, Baseball America, FastCasual.com, and Restaurant Development + Design. Valerie has met business objectives for more than 20 years by planning, creating and revising quality written content for individuals and businesses alike, and most recently worked on the launch of restaurant-industry leading website Catering Insights.

John Kunkel

CEO & Founder | 50 Eggs

In the heart of Miami, restaurateur John, founder and CEO of 50 Eggs, focuses his unwavering passion and exceptional business acumen into creating highly successful and ahead of the curve culinary concepts. In just under two decades, Kunkel has built 50 Eggs into a diverse, award winning restaurant group, demonstrating his talent for conceiving, building, branding and operating a broad range of innovative hospitality concepts. His current collection of restaurants includes the award-winning Yardbird Southern Table and Bar, Swine Southern Table and Bar and BTW.

Michael Mabry

COO | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes

Michael is the COO of MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes, a fast-casual, “better burger” concept founded in 2007. Michael is responsible for MOOYAH’s overall growth and operational strategy along with all day-to-day business. Under his guidance, the brand is set to hit 100 locations by the end of 2015, including locations in six new states. Michael has held a variety of roles in the restaurant industry since starting with a catering business he developed in 1989, followed by successful stints at Brinker International and Cutchall Management Company, before joining the MOOYAH team in 2009.

Jenny Martin

Director, Brand Marketing | Togo’s Sandwiches

Jenny, director of brand marketing for Togo’s Sandwiches, is a 15-year veteran in restaurant marketing. Over the past 10 years, Jenny has led marketing and product innovation strategies for Togo’s, which has enjoyed a growing share of the sandwich category in the West Coast markets which they operate. Among her broad expanse of brand marketing responsibilities, Jenny also directs the company’s digital channel marketing initiatives including ecommerce, CRM/loyalty, website, digital media planning, email and social media. Prior to joining Togo’s, Jenny worked for Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, where she was responsible for national advertising, promotions, partnerships and event marketing.

Jim Melvin

CEO | GuestDNA

Beginning with his first software sale at the age 15, Jim has devoted more than 35 years to the technology business. Currently he is CEO of GuestDNA, creator of a guest engagement platform that provides insight into consumer behavior to increase revenue and strengthen customer loyalty. Jim has also led SIVA Corporation, developer of the first enterprise-enabled restaurant POS; Apigent Solutions, an early business analytics ASP; and point-of-sale leader Compris, where he joined forces with IBM to create that company’s first commercial touchscreen POS. Jim’s products have been installed at more than 125,000 sites worldwide.

Jim Mizes

President & COO | Blaze Pizza

Jim is the “founder’s best friend” turning brand vision to reality through systems, values based leadership, culture, and a common purpose. Over the past 25 years, Jim has worked with multiple start-ups to rapidly scale. At Blaze Pizza, Jim has led expansion from 2 restaurants to 80+ in just over 2 years. Prior to Blaze Pizza, Jim was president of Freebirds World Burrito and CEO & president of Club One (a health club company). Jim successfully scaled Noah’s Bagels from 8 to 130 restaurants in 3 years and then was part of the executive team that built Jamba Juice from 50 to 450 restaurants in 5 years. Jim led the 59/79/99 Run for the Border campaign at Taco Bell that resulted in 60% same store sales growth in 1990.

Michael Mohammed

CEO | Chronic Tacos

Michael entered Chronic Tacos Enterprises in 2012 as CEO—bringing 15 years of finance and management experience. Michael and his brothers helped finance Chronic Tacos’ Canadian expansion in 2010, granting firsthand experience of the company’s unique culture. Instantly recognizing its potential, the brothers purchased a controlling stake in Chronic Tacos, where they have since strengthened the culture and positioned the brand for long-term growth. Under Michael’s leadership, Chronic Tacos has signed 50 new locations and increased unit sales volume by 20 percent. The company’s focus on quality, uniqueness and authenticity has created a cult-like following from its customers.

Tom Nix

CEO | Scala

As CEO of Scala, Tom focuses on Scala’s evolution and expansion in digital communications and customer engagement. He is passionate about digital signage as part of a company’s omni-channel strategy. He loves highly immersive, intelligent, personalized experiences that drive high returns for Scala’s many customers across the globe. Tom believes that leveraging Scala’s Advanced Analytics to predict patterns and improve conversions is a major value add for our customers and is always looking forward to Scala’s next big idea to advance the industry forward.

David Oddi

Founding Partner | Goode Partners

David is a founding partner of Goode Partners, a private equity firm that focuses exclusively on investment opportunities in the restaurant, retail, apparel, direct marketing, and branded consumer product sectors. The firm has established itself as a partner of choice to entrepreneurs by leveraging its unique combination of investment capital, a team of professionals with experience investing in and operating some of the world’s premiere consumer brands and an extensive industry network. Investments in the restaurant sector have included Chuy’s, Elephant Bar, Marie Callender’s, Mimi’s Café, and Rosa Mexicano. David is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Frank Paci

CEO | Corner Bakery Cafe

Frank has 30 years of restaurant and retail experience with top brands. He currently serves on the board of directors of Round Table Pizza, and was previously president and CEO of Einstein Noah Restaurant Group. Prior to Einstein’s, Frank led the nationally recognized fast-casual concept McAlister’s Deli as the company’s president and chief executive officer. Prior to McAlister’s, Frank was chief financial officer at The Pantry, Inc., a convenience store chain with over 1,500 locations. He also held various general management, finance, and franchise sales positions with Pizza Hut and Burger King.

Steve Pattison

General Manager | Supply Chain Services

Steve has been general manager at Supply Chain Services since the company’s inception in 2004. In addition to serving as SCS’ GM, Steve is the CEO and VP of business analysis and risk management for RSI. Steve and his team are responsible for RSI’s financial operations and risk management functions and provide input for the company’s strategic business direction. Prior to joining SCS/RSI, Steve held several positions over his ten-year tenure at Burger King Corporation. His roles included vice president of corporate planning, and reporting & treasury, where he was responsible for global planning, forecasting, risk management, internal & external reporting, internal control assessment, cash management and captive franchisee financing program.

Stephen Polanski

SVP, Sales | Buxton

In his role as SVP of sales, Stephen leads Buxton’s retail and healthcare consulting teams. For more than six years Stephen has worked to build relationships with retail and restaurant clients to help them to get the maximum benefit from customer analytics. Stephen’s clients include Wingstop, Red Wing Shoes, ALFA Insurance, Which Wich and Title Boxing Club. Before joining Buxton, Stephen was a professional golfer. He received his bachelor’s degree in business management from Texas Christian University.

Nick Powills

CEO | No Limit Agency

Nick founded No Limit Agency and its sister company 1851 in 2008 and serves as Chief Brand Strategist for the Chicago-based firm. Prior to starting No Limit at the age of 27, Nick spent four years working at a franchise PR agency where he mastered the art of building rapport with media outlets and creating newsworthy pitches for earned media placements. Prior to jumping into PR, Nick worked as a writer at the Northwest Herald, a daily newspaper in Chicago; started Lumino, an online music magazine; and had internships at Rolling Stone and Details Magazine. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Drake University in Iowa.

Sarah Quinlan

SVP, Market Insights | MasterCard Advisors

Sarah is the SVP and Group Head of Market Insights for MasterCard Advisors, the analytics and insights consulting unit of MasterCard. Since joining MasterCard in January 2013, Sarah has advised executives in a range of industries, including retail, banking, capital markets, and government agencies, providing macro-to-micro economic trends related to consumer spending and retail sales. She and her team analyze and predict spending patterns to create solutions that help clients make better business decisions. Sarah appears regularly in the media including CNBC, the Associated Press, Fox Business Network, Bloomberg TV, the Times of London, The Daily Telegraph, and Women’s Wear Daily (WWD).

Larry Reinstein

President | LJR Hospitality Ventures

Larry is President of LJR Hospitality Ventures, a consulting firm that provides profitable solutions to private equity, owners and operators of restaurant companies. Having led multiple companies, he is one of the original innovators and leaders in fast casual and is past chair of the Fast Casual Industry council.

Mike Remes

Corporate Chef | Burger 21

Mike manages all aspects of Burger 21’s menu development while overseeing training and operations for restaurant openings across the country. He has been a member of the Burger 21 team since fall of 2010, where he started as the house trainer and line cook. Mike began his career in the restaurant industry in 2000 with Outback Steakhouse and then as a grill cook at RJ Gator’s Restaurant where he was promoted to a kitchen trainer position and helped to open several restaurants. Prior to joining the Burger 21 team, Mike served as GM of a local burger restaurant and worked for J.Alexander’s and Bern’s Steak House before turning his attention back to his passion. Burgers.

Matthew Riddleberger

VP, Supply Chain Services | Firehouse Subs

Matthew controls all aspects of purchasing, distribution, research and development, and quality assurance for corporate and franchise owned Firehouse Subs restaurants. Prior to his employment at Firehouse Subs, Matthew worked at Sysco Food Services for eight years as the VP of Merchandising & Marketing, where he managed a diverse organization of 25 full time employees, with 30,000+ inventory of regular/remote and special order stock. In 2008, Matthew was the first ever end user to receive the IFMA Sparkplug award for working with vendors to better understand the needs of end users in both products and distribution.

Tom Sacco

CEO & President | Cole’s Backyard Grill

Tom joined in Homestyle Dining in July of 2012 and was promoted to CEO February 2015. Tom has previously held various senior-level positions with such chains as BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, Fox Sports Grill, and Wyatt’s Cafeterias. Additionally, Sacco is very familiar with the steakhouse and buffet segment of the restaurant industry having served as senior vice president of operations and franchise support for Bonanza Steakhouse and as vice president of operations and franchise support at Western Sizzlin Steakhouse.

Christopher Sebes

CEO, XPIENT & SVP, Heartland Commerce | Heartland Payment Systems

Christopher award-winning foodservice career includes international hotel and resort management as well as multi-unit restaurant operations in Europe and the United States. His 20-year background in related technology initiatives includes co-founding Twenty20 Visual Systems and leading Progressive Software as chief executive officer. In 2004, he founded XPIENT—a leader in enterprise restaurant point-of-sale software. XPIENT powers some of the most recognized quick-service and fast-casual restaurant brands. A trained professional chef, Christopher received his bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management from the University of Portsmouth in England.

Carin Stutz

President | McAlister’s Deli

Carin joined FOCUS Brands in November 2014 as president of McAlister’s Deli, the 340+award winning fast casual restaurant chain known for sandwiches, spuds, soups, salads, and McAlister’s Famous Sweet Tea. Carin previously served as CEO and president of Cosi, President of Global Business Development for Brinker International, executive vice president of operations for Applebee’s International, Inc. and a division vice president for Wendy’s International. She is a Past Chair of the Women’s Foodservice Forum.

Michelle Strong

Chief Marketing Officer | Long Range Systems

As chief marketing officer for Long Range Systems, Michelle is responsible for LRS’ product strategy, marketing programs, corporate communications, and sales support. In her role, Michelle works closely with LRS’ clients, business partners, and operating units to assess market needs, uncover emerging trends, understand competitive offerings, and recommend integrated hardware and software offerings that best address on-location communication needs. Michelle began her career in the media industry and held management roles in a variety of businesses including media, agency, affiliate marketing, and non-profit; with responsibility for overseeing sales, marketing, research, operations, and product development.

Neil Sudaisar

Sr Director, DIRECTV Enterprise Solutions | DIRECTV

Serving customers with distinction, building long-lasting business relationships, and developing successful teams are Neil’s focus as he leads DIRECTV’s Enterprise Solutions team. Before joining DIRECTV, Neil held senior management positions at Best Buy and Qwest, Inc. At Best Buy, he led the integration of Geek Squad services across merchant organizations and developing partnerships with industry leaders such as Microsoft, AAA, and AT&T. At Qwest, Neil led the development and execution of customer retention and acquisition strategies for alternative channels including indirect retail, door-to-door, click-to-chat, and online affiliate programs. Neil’s career constants are passion for the customer, building people and teams, and delivering results.

Mike Todd

Vice President, Sales | PAR

Mike is vice president of sales – New Business and Channels for Partech – the restaurant division of PAR Technology Corporation. His responsibilities include acquiring new clients in all tiers of the market, both direct and indirect through strategic partners, while managing sales of PAR’s newly acquired Brink Software platform, the PixelPoint dealer channel and the Independent Software Vendor (ISV) team. Mike has 34 years of industry experience holding sales leadership roles at Agilysys, Torex, Retalix and NCR. In addition, he served as CEO of MATRA Systems, a POS provider to tier 1 amusement parks worldwide.

Ray Wiley

Co-Founder | Hot Head Burritos

Ray cut his teeth in the restaurant industry during the early years of Pizza Hut when his father owned several stores. Ray later became store manager for concepts such as Pepperoni Express, Domino’s, and Skyline. Supervision of 10 Skyline Chili stores brought Ray to Dayton in 1989, where he purchased his first Subway and was named Regional Franchisee of the year in 2002. In 2007, Ray came up with the idea for Hot Head Burritos and currently owns 13 of the 65 stores. In September, 2015 Ray launched the first store of his next creation – Rapid Fired Pizza, a QSR pizza concept opened. The second Rapid Fired Store is set to open by the end of 2015.

Kathleen Wood

Co-Founder | Suzy’s Swirl

Kathleen is the founder of Kathleen Wood Partners, LLC, an innovative growth strategy firm. She offers strategic consulting services, brand development, and results-driven solutions for restaurant, services, manufacturing and retail clients. Kathleen is a founder of Suzy’s Swirl an innovative frozen dessert concept featuring self-serve, catering and foodservice distribution services. She holds a Bachelors degree t from University of Wisconsin – Stout and Master in Business Administration from Loyola University of Chicago.

Lee Zucker

Director, Enterprise | SinglePlatform

Lee is the director of enterprise at SinglePlatform, a leading tech company that places restaurants’ most important information across popular websites & mobile apps. He built the SinglePlatform solution for franchises and restaurant groups that is now loved by hundreds of clients representing more than 10,000 locations. A passionate food lover (and Cubs fan) from Chicago, he relocated to New York City to explore the restaurants, grow his team and continue to work in the industry he loves. Lee has been a featured speaker at events by the International Franchise Association, the Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators Conference and the Food Service Technology Conference.